Bessemer’s first-ever safe room is on the way.
The Bessemer City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 authorized Mayor Kenneth Gulley to enter into a contract with Coston General Contractors for the construction of a Community Safe Room and an Emergency Operations Center E911 safe room in the event of inclement weather. The safe room will be built at the Bessemer Police Department’s Emergency Operations Center at 651 Ninth Avenue SW.
Construction should begin in about 60 days.
The project is expected to cost about $579,000. Seventy-five percent of the cost for the community safe room will come from funding provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. The remaining 25 percent of the safe room cost and the entire cost for EOC safe room project will come from the city’s E911 fund.
The safe room is the first in Bessemer, but city officials are hopeful of constructing others. Mayor Kenneth Gulley said he would like to identify sources of funding to build other safe rooms in other parts of Bessemer. The city has been hit by tornadoes in the past, the most recent storms being the EF2 storm of 2014 and the storm that damaged houses in Greenwood in 2016.
The safe room at the EOC location will hold up to 100 people, but could hold more if needed, said city engineer Ron Gilbert. The E911 safe room will hold police and fire emergency operations in the event of damage to the main EOC building. Mayor Gulley said the community safe room can also serve as a warming station in the event of extreme cold weather in the city and a conference room.
“We’re excited to start construction on the city’s first storm shelter,” Gulley said. “Currently, when we have inclement weather, we have no place for our residents to shelter. This will finally provide that shelter for our residents and provide a safe place for our emergency personnel so that they can continue working as well.”
In other action during the meeting, the Council approved an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a Feasibility Phase Study on the Valley Creek Watershed. The study will look at ways to alleviate flooding in the watershed, such as the flooding in Bessemer’s Pipe Shop Community. The study is expected to last three years and public participation will be conducted by the Corp of Engineers. The study will be paid for entirely with federal funding.
The city has currently set aside funding in the general budget to assist with a buy-out program for homes in the flood zoned areas of Pipe Shop. Mayor Gulley said he wants the program to continue in spite of the study efforts.
The Council also authorized the Mayor to enter into an agreement with Video Industrial Services, Inc. for repairs to a damaged culvert along Greenmoor Drive.